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Cover image ©iStockphoto.com/ChuckSchugPhotography

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The Suitable Girl by Michelle McGrane

Pindrop Press

 

The suitable girl wears many faces.  She is mythic, and she is contemporary.  She mourns.  She is sensual.  She walks on water.

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I felt like a kid at Christmas when my copy of The Suitable Girl arrived in the mail.  I know Michelle McGrane is an excellent poet, because I’m a big fan of her work.  But this book even surpassed my expectations.

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Edited by Jo Hemmant of Pindrop Press, the poems in The Suitable Girl are beautiful and powerful.  The often startling images are sharp and unique.

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This collection of poems offers so much variety!  Whether you are interested in shorter pieces or prose poems, mythic voices or modern day scenes, you will find it all in The Suitable Girl.

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As a poet, I cannot help but marvel at Michelle McGrane’s technique.  Her stanzas are well measured but don’t feel forced.  Her poems are musical, and she echoes sound throughout entire pieces.  The narrator’s voice is different in every poem, from a straight-talking beat style to elegant prose that rolls across the page.

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But I’ll try not to bore you with my urge to give a nerdy, technical analysis.

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Listen to her stories.

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You will meet Madame Bovary in this book, as well as Black Oak’s Daughter.  There is also the story of Glauce’s bridal robe, poisoned by Medea.                 The Bee Man tells a story in eleven succinct lines. The Suitable Girl even sends postcards from the moon.

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The voices in this collection are strong.  The dialect in ‘Terra Marique Potens’ is fantastic. The narrator is a force to be reckoned with, powerful on land and sea.  She gives birth aboard ship and then fires a muzzle at a “flinty crag of a man bawling like the divil hisself.”

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All of the poems in The Suitable Girl are excellent.  Some of the stories are heartbreaking.  In Skin Offerings, the narrator describes a young woman’s anorexia and self-mutilation.  4:00 am tells the powerful story of a young mother who is battling for life.  She leaves her mud hut to walk twelve kilometres to a government clinic for treatment.  She hums a hymn and wears a gaily-patterned headscarf, an astounding symbol of her unbreakable spirit.

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Other poems are humorous.  The Escape Artist, a “Lord of the Fleas”  runs off “with the ringmaster’s silver weimaraner.” One of my favorite shorter pieces is The Recalcitrant Muse, who fires up a cigarette and could use a drink and a few hours’ sleep.  This muse is late for an appointment with a middle-aged divorcée.  She is also a muse who realizes that “immortality doesn’t pay the bills.”

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Did I say beautiful?  Well, take a look for yourself at the sample poem below.  The Suitable Girl has many faces.  Sometimes she whispers her stories.  Sometimes she speaks with her tongue in her cheek.  Sometimes she screams.  Each one of her voices should be read again and again.

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She Walks On Water

by Michelle McGrane

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The air is heavy with salt spray and kelp.

The seagull’s tongue is dumb.

Dark hair hides the face

of the madonna on the beach.

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Hands like silver starfish

lift a long skirt, reveal pale knees;

a cerulean scarf flutters in the breeze.

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She turns away from

the promenade’s ice-cream smiles

and waving kites,

shrugs off the dirty-weekend hotel

moored in the harbour’s embrace.

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Her spirit becomes a sail.

Her eyes are the horizon.

Her bare, white limbs shine

with phosphorescence.

The stars lean over to plant kisses

on her forehead.

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In the morning haze,

wisps of fog drifting in with the waves,

she walks on water.

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A blue strand washes up on the sand

among splintered timbers, plastic wrappings,

sodden cigarette butts.

Perched on a guano-stained mast,

the seagull keeps her secret.

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The above poem and quotes are © Michelle McGrane 2010 and used with permission.  Please contact Pindrop Press or the author for permission before reposting.

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From Pindrop Press:

Michelle McGrane was born in Zimbabwe in 1974, spent her childhood in Malawi, and moved to South Africa with her family when she was fourteen. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). She lives in Johannesburg and blogs at Peony Moon.

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To order The Suitable Girl, click HERE.

It is well worth the low price.

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